Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fun Window Merchandising!

I’m sure at some point there was a past life where I dressed mannequins in fancy dress shops, posing them in alluring them positions to show the drapes and folds of the finest tailored fabrics. Or maybe even a mail sorter, quickly organizing mail in address, route, truck with speed and efficiency.
Well, neither are my current job. I sell musical instruments for a little company exclusive in Canada called Long & McQuade Musical Instruments. It’s a pretty rad place to work, I must say. Retail pays what it’ll always pay, but as a suffering artist, misery loves company. Long & McQuade likes to hire musicians, and are very flexible when it comes to working around schedules that lots of gigging musicians have. For example: we’re closed on Sundays! Even if you’re not a gigging musician, that’s still pretty awesome. With the customer service policy in mind, we set out to match your needs with the right combination of our products and services.

(Author’s note: Ha! I just checked the mission statement to see if I got that right, and I did! I didn’t even have to go back and correct it!)

I like working where I work because it allows me to exercise two of my Zen activities: macro-organization and merchandising. Dealing with musical instruments usually means having to deal with the smaller components that make them up, so there are drawers and drawers full of extra saxophone key pads, guitar picks, microphone caps, turntable needles, drum felts, you name it. Now, each department is separate, so imagine the mess that it could create! If my fellow beaders can appreciate, imagine recreating an organizational process every week. I mean, completely changing it. Gets really tiring after a while, doesn’t it? Well, most organization techniques I use at work are usually trial-and-error issues I’ve had with my own supplies at home.

Window merchandising is something completely different. I love doing that stuff! Showing off your product in the best light possible to make it an attractive buy for customers. It’s like giving the best first impression on a job interview; you don’t walk in there wearing your pyjamas, you’ve got on the swankiest, presidential best. Merchandising something like musical instruments has both its pros and cons. Just looking at an instrument can evoke images in your mind’s eye of some of your favourite musicians. Maybe you can even picture playing one yourself! When you get the right look and combination, sometimes something else comes of it. Check out the pictures below of the windows we’ve featured in the store!

(Author's note: The month of May isn't here because there wasn't a display! The room was needed for temporary overstock storage.)

January: The Real RockBand/Guitar Hero! With the big rush that these video games had from the previous Christmas season, we hand-picked some instruments that had the flashiness of some of the gear used in the video game. Guitar tab books featuring the songs used in both games are available in compilation folios. (A lot of people actually thought they were cheat code books for the video games. We tell people they’re cheat sheets for the real deal.) Featured gear: Yamaha RBX bass guitar, silver; Pacific drums by DW, tribal wrap; Epiphone Flying V, black with white pickguard; Epiphone Zakk Wylde Bullseye Camo LP Studio; Marshall 4×12 cabs with Marshall Vintage Modern 100w head; Traynor bass cab with head.

February: A Very Metal Valentines. Being the only female sales rep on the floor (usually), it would be easy for me to decorate the window in red and pink balloons and make it all cutesy-like. That’s what the guys were afraid of. So, I made this one for the guys. With some felt hearts from the dollar store (each one of them hand cut to look ‘broken’) and confetti, red flood lights and the meanest, blackest guitars we had, we turned that front window into what some of the guys called ‘Satan’s jamspace’ for a while. Featured gear: Mesa Boogie 4×12 cabs with Triple Rectifier 150w head; Ibanez Universe 7-string guitar; Warwick Vampire bass guitar; Gibson Explorer guitar, mirror front; Epiphone SG, black; Gretsch hollow body guitar.

March: St. Patrick’s Day, or “The Drunken Leprechaun’s Jam Space”. That was my vision, at least. We have a Beer Store just around the corner from us, and thought to ask for some empty 24 boxes of ‘green beer’. That didn’t really follow through; in the long run, it wasn’t a really good idea, anyway. So, we ran around the store snagging green and orange stuff, Irish stuff, folky stuff, and took the monthly trip to the dollar store to find some St. Patty’s goodies. (Author’s note: I know djembes aren’t Irish, but we had no bodhrans, and I needed something percussion-like.) Featured gear: African djembes, Orange 4×12 cab with Rockerverb head; Epiphone Hummingbird acoustic guitar; Gibson SG Robot guitar, green; Ayotte drums, black wrap; Harpsicle, black; Schoenbach 4/4 violin outfit; Gemeinhardt open-hole flute; Yorkville bass amplifier; Epiphone viola bass.

Read my blog about Les Paul, his acheivements, and the impact he made on the music industry as a whole.

April (main window): History of the Gibson. April is ‘Gibson Month’ at Long & McQuade, which usually means free Gibson swag, great deals on Gibson gear, and a chance to check out the latest technology from the kings of the rock n’ roll sound. The display is meant to present the Gibson guitar timeline, when they started making handmade banjos and mandolins, all the way to revolutionary technology that changes the way we as players attack the fretboard. (Author’s note: I cheated a bit. If the Gibson model wasn’t around, I threw in the Epiphone model. It’s the same company, and aesthetically, between the two models, they do look the same. It’s all about the electronic components used on the inside.) Featured gear: Epiphone f-style mandolin; Epiphone 5-string banjo; Gibson J45 acoustic guitar; Gibson ES-335 hollow body guitar; Epiphone LP Studio gold archtop guitar; Gibson SG guitar, black; Gibson Flying V guitar, natural; Gibson Thunderbird bass guitar; Gibson Robot guitar, green; Epiphone Valve Jr. heads and cabs; Marshall 4×12 cabs with Vintage Modern 100w head and Super 100JH head; Boss and Dunlop pedals.

April (Concert Band, Acoustics Dept.): Easter Surprise! This was my acoustic specialist’s worst nightmare yet. I did want to do something that didn’t leave a certain market out for this season - the grandparents and parents who come in on the beheast of the ‘Easter Bunny’ leaving the grand surprise at the end of the egg hunt. I’ll admit, this one was one of my favourite ones to do because of the colours. You couldn’t help but feel happy (and crave chocolate, no less) whenever you pass by these displays. Featured gear: Daisy Rock and Denver acoustic guitars; Schoenbach orchestral strings; an assortment of used student model concert band instruments.

June: Monster Days Sale! I think we had really outdone ourselves when it came to our Monster Days Sale this month of June. Head office had sent us two cardboard stand-ups of a lizard rockin’ out with a guitar, looking like he’s gonna hop across the floor. The first idea that I had was to find some sort of inflatable monster and build a city silhouette out of product boxes. Well, they spun that even furthur, adding in a couple of Inferno lights to the setup, creating the illusion that some of the buildings were on fire. Remember those little army guys everyone had when they were kids? You can get them at most dollar stores now. My assistant manager, Dan, and office manager ran over the the nearest one to get some of those army guys, as well as some tanks, helicopters, trucks, anything else to make the ‘city’ look like it was a war zone. We scattered them around the ‘buildings’ making sure their guns were aimed at the ‘Monster’ turned up to 11! The piece du resistance was courtesy of my manager, Charlie, who hooked up a fog machine through an insulated vacuum tube to a hole in the cardboard ‘Monster’s’ mouth. Press the button, and voila! Dragon’s breath! It was a great thing for kids on Saturdays; they would stand around the window and mimic what the soldiers on the buildings would be saying to each other, shouting out orders and whatnot.

I love this part of my job! We've got the rest of the year to go, so watch out for some more awesome window displays!

Photography credit: Cassandra Watsham, Nick Lee


The Tote Trove said...

I love your displays! And I must confess I'm a little bit jealous b/c I always thought it would be cool to design displays.

Cassandra Watsham said...

Thanks Tracy! They were fun to do, and a LOT of work.

I now know what the folks who do the windows in The Bay in the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto go through every Christmas, if you've ever seen their window displays ... now THAT'S something I'd love to work on! Animatronics with such detailed sets of traditional holiday settings, with Santa Claus and his elves in the toy workshop, carolers on street curbs and shoppers with packages, kids waking up Christmas morning ripping open presents. Oh man!

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